TV star ‘brutally’ fat-shamed on celeb site
Television journalist Steve Pennells never thought he would find himself plastered all over a fat shaming website.
But to his shock, a few months ago he stumbled across a shirtless photo of himself, taken while on a story in Poland, on the Fat Male Celebrity page on Tumblr, which mocks football stars to actors and media personalities.
The image shows the Sunday Night journalist shirtless in the snow while covering a story for the program.
"I was flattered that they called me a celebrity, less flattered that they called me fat," Pennells told news.com.au
While he never viewed himself as "fat", the image prompted Pennells to change his lifestyle, shedding 20kg while developing an impressive six-pack during an eight-week challenge.
"I never really considered myself fat … just a regular 48-year-old bloke with a dad bod," he said.
At his heaviest, Pennells tipped the scales at 104kg. He then dropped to 98kg earlier this year and now weighs 77kg after his weight loss transformation with Ultimate Performance.
"When I was a kid I swam a bit, I played sports every now and again, so it's been peaks and plateaus - and it's been a plateau for the last 20-odd years," he explained.
"For the past few years, I've been constantly on the road for work so fitness and diet fell by the wayside."
He went to the gym as much as he could but admitted he was never as committed as he should have been.
"Luckily, I don't have a sweet tooth and I don't think my diet was too bad, aside from a love of pasta and bread - the problem was I just ate more than I probably needed to and didn't exercise enough."
Pennells said he had been meaning to get back into shape for a while and after seeing his photo on the site, said "it was probably the push I needed".
He said he was in Poland doing a story which involved taking his shirt off and getting into freezing cold water - then a few days after his report aired, shirtless photos of him surfaced on a blog called "Fat Male Celebrities - Stars Packing on the Pounds".
He described it as "brutal" to his strong social media following.
"The fat-shaming didn't worry me. But I knew I had let things slip slowly over the years," Pennells said.
Days later, Ultimate Performance Sydney contacted him, proposing their eight-week challenge which he believed was the "universe giving him a sign".
At first, Pennells was sceptical with the program given the time spent on the road for work - but he was surprised to see results after just two weeks of training with his chiselled chest to follow just six weeks after.
"It takes a bit of discipline but it was easier than I thought. It was all about cutting carbs, increasing protein, eating smarter and portion control. Oh yes … and no alcohol," he said.
"Yes, who would have thought," the journalist said, referring to his six-pack.
"I told my trainer I was seeing abs I hadn't seen since 1994. He said that was the year he was born. I guess the takeaway from all this is that age is no excuse and time is no excuse."
As part of his transformation, Pennells trained three times a week, for 45 minutes, with a focus on lifting weights including trapbar dead lifts, dumbbell press, split squats, neutral grip pulldown, cable flys and leg extensions.
"Believe it or not, there was next to no cardio. It was just weight training. That's it. The rest was down to the food," he told news.com.au
"In the middle of all this, I was crisscrossing across eight countries and ended up climbing Mt Kilimanjaro for a story for Sunday Night, something I never would have been able to do if I hadn't been training with these guys."
Pennells said while he had let things slip over time, he is now in the best shape he's been in almost 30 years.
In eight weeks he lost more than 13kg and cut his body fat from 35 per cent to 16 per cent.
He then lost another 7kg in the four weeks after the challenge, bringing him down to a lean 77kg.
"As stupid as it sounds, the weight loss plan was probably too successful. I'm too thin and my friends are calling me Skeletor, so the goal now is to put some lean meat back on these bones," he said.
He is still training three times a week with a slight shift in his diet to "beef me up a little bit".
"I'm still eating clean (protein-based meals) and avoiding the bad stuff, but now that there's a different goal, I'm eating more."
"Mentally and physically I'm a new man. I also need an entirely new wardrobe but I'm okay with that."
Since posting about his transformation on Instagram he has gone on to receive hundreds of comments of support.
"What an incredible transformation after the universe came knocking. And to achieve it while doing the media travel juggle is sensational," one follower said.
"Amazing work," added another.
"I was just going to say that you look amazing great job."
Pennells said for those hoping to make a change to their lifestyle, it starts with you.
"Ignore fat shaming. The only person you should do something like this for is yourself. I wasn't unhappy with where I was but I just wanted to be a fitter, healthier version of myself."